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December 03, 2004

Of trees and menorahs

Every December, there's a huge fight somewhere over "holiday displays" on public property (hat tip to How Appealing for the link).  The argument usually runs something like this:

Can we have a Christmas tree?  If we have a tree can we call it a "Christmas tree," or does it have to be called a "Holiday tree" (as deposed CA ex-Gov. Gray Davis called it)?  Can we put a menorah near the tree?  How tall can it be?  etc. etc....

This is all undoubtedly playing out in a city hall, public square, or courthouse near you, and the people on all sides of the debate care a great deal about it.  But why?  After all, the prophet Jeremiah describes a tree cut from the forest and adorned with silver and gold as a "worthless" custom, which has led some to conclude that setting up a Christmas tree borders on idolatry - in any event, as Charlie Brown annually reminds us, a tree has little if any connection to the "meaning of Christmas."  And Chanukah is a relatively minor holiday in the Jewish calendar (yet there's no movement that I'm aware of to display a shofar at City Hall during the High Holy Days).

What's really going on here?  One hopes that the annual strife over which "holiday displays" will be allowed on public property isn't really a battle over whose religion will be publicly recognized and whose will not.  Because that would mean that some people think their religion is better than others, and that the government should publicly endorse theirs but not someone else's.  And no one would think that way, ... would they?

Posted by David at 11:48 AM in National | Permalink


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